Hooniverse Asks: What's the dumbest thing you've broken… while fixing something else?

While wrenching on my 1974 Mercedes-Benz 280 sedan yesterday afternoon, I had a goal in my head. That goal was to adjust the turn signal so it held position when activated and the other was to adjust my driver’s side glass so it was in the closed position.
With respect to the turn signal fix, it was as simple as pulling back a cover and then dremeling out a cleaner notch for the stalk to grab when it’s selected. Now it stays on until the wheel cancels it back to the standard off position. It went just swell.
The driver’s door window is currently giving me trouble because I decided to leave the car with a valet parking service during a trip to Vegas for SEMA. This was dumb on my part for many reasons, but I caved because the price wasn’t much higher than the normal parking rate and it included a wash, which my car needed. Upon my return, I found that my Benz had not been washed. The trim around the ignition key was out farther than before I left, but it was never fully in place so I can’t fully fault anyone there. My driver’s window was halfway down, and when I got into fire up the car and bring it back up it would go no higher.
Yesterday, I decided to open up the door and take a look around. My goal was to loosen the window regulator, slide the window into the fully closed position, and tighten everything back up. Then have someone with more knowledge help me figure out why it was jacked in the first place. I can’t get the actual glass to slide more than halfway up the door though, and I don’t know why. To get better access, I figured I’d remove the side mirror.
While doing so, I snapped one of the three screws holding that mirror in place… so now I have a door torn apart, a window off the tracks, a loose regulator, and a side mirror that’s not tight to the body. So I ask you, what the dumbest thing you’ve broken while trying to fix a different part of your vehicle?

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27 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the dumbest thing you've broken… while fixing something else?”

  1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Water was making its way out of the exhaust flange on my motorcycle. Convinced it was a head gasket issue, I bought a head gasket kit and set to work. The cylinder comes off to replace the base gasket as well. Figured I’d clean up the piston while I was at it. All top end work, until I drop a wrist pin circlip down the cylinder. Now I have to split the cases. That requires pulling the flywheel. I didn’t have the proper puller, but I figured I could make something work. I was wrong. Broke the flywheel.
    The kicker? The head gasket was fine. The water in the exhaust was likely just condensation.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      that sucks… and sounds like something I would do.

    2. nanoop Avatar

      Burning one litre of octane produces about one litre of water…. I hear there are certain cars that suffer from exhaust rust only at some low spots. A 2mm hole ensures proper dryness.

  2. Bj Ruland Avatar
    Bj Ruland

    Does my hand count? So I’m given what I was told was a 15 inch trailer wheel and tire that was shredded. I proceed to dismount the shredded tire and put a 15 inch tire on. It falls straight through and that was when it was obvious it was not a 15 inch wheel. My father passes by as I am doing this and says “oh, that is a 14 inch.” So I proceed to install a 14 inch tire on the wheel. It goes on fine, I start pushing air in to pop the beads up to the rim and the bottom slides on and the top starts to and suddenly there is a explosion and the world goes black. I wake up to a wheel on my head and me laying about 15 feet away from the changer. My right hand is a bloody mess, my right arm is numb and my head is ringing. After a bit I am off to the hospital in a bambalance and am told my right thumb needs surgery since it isn’t attached to where it was supposed to be and was pretty shredded. I have a bruised shoulder, bruised ribs and the name of the tire on my chest. Slight concussion.
    It was a 14.5 inch wheel. When I forced the bead on it blasted through the bottom and forced the wheel off the changer, since this wheel was a old mobile home wheel it didn’t have a traditional center but looked more like a tractor wheel. It was not a split rim, wasn’t designed to be expanded in a cage. You just can’t put a 14inch on a 14.5. Trust, but verify was my mistake.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Measure twice, cut once.

  3. neight428 Avatar

    Not really the same thing, but I once removed the front control arms on my ’94 Camaro to replace the ball joints and bushings and then, after losing track of which was which, reinstalled them on the opposite sides. It handled like a shopping cart being pushed backwards.
    And for one that’s not my fault, I went to check the timing to start trouble shooting a cold starting issue I had on my Trans Am to find out that the distributor had no mechanical advance at all and the linkages were basically rusted solid. A new distributor and reset timing later and I had wicked pinging on pump gas.

  4. Pauly WallNutz Avatar
    Pauly WallNutz

    The first time I ever changed a spark plugs in my Datsun 620, I must have been 16 and had no instruction. So I just tightened them down hard. Then one broke, and not just the tip, the threaded sleeve stayed in the head and the electrode fell out. Had to get a screw extractor to remove the threaded section, but it took a few days to figure that out and find one.

  5. Paul Rahn Avatar
    Paul Rahn

    Been there. Done that.

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Hydraulic convertible top cylinders had leaked a little, and needed more fluid, which is filled by removing a plug in the pump. The pump is roughly between the decklid hinges; sort of up and out of the way. It’s also somewhat concealed by the top well, which is a semi-shapeless vinyl piece.
    To make access easier, I got a broomstick and wedged it to hold the top well up. That part worked. I filled the reservoir, then started cycling the convertible top to get the air bubbles out of the lines. Each cycle gave the top assembly a little more range, until…
    …the top retracted all the way into the well, as I intended, but the rear window needed to be where the broom handle was. The broom handle survived. The glass didn’t.

  7. nanoop Avatar

    Well, aged plastic tabs that brake on your way in are a staple of wrenching on 10+ yo cars. The good news is that you can still find NOS or used ones that are as brittle. I am looking forward to using a 3D printing service for the purely decorative panels.

  8. ptschett Avatar

    While replacing the water pump in the ’73 Cougar, I accidentally bumped the radiator with a tool – hard enough to put a hole in a tube. It was my sister’s car at the time, so she had to drive a farm pickup for another week while the radiator was getting fixed at the shop in town.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      I’ve done that with the water pump itself–tugged on the old one to unstick the gasket, and then when it finally broke loose, it punctured a couple radiator tubes. I had sort of resigned myself to a costly repair, but the guy at the parts store suggested high temp, copper-infused epoxy. Ten minute repair (plus cure time) for under ten bucks, and it held up for a few years.

  9. Luxury Lexus Land-yacht Avatar
    Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

    Nissan 720 softbody pickup blew a head gasket between cylinders 3 and 4.
    I’d never done a head gasket before, but how hard can it be? On this truck, not very, turns out.
    However, when putting the camshaft back, I got something a little off, and when I went to tighten something, the locating pin for the timing gear snapped clean off.
    Fortunately, my wife’s Mercedes mechanic had this same engine in a closet at his shop. $25 later, I had a ‘new’ camshaft.

  10. Bryce Womeldurf Avatar

    When I had to take out the big crank bolt in the Miata. I was worried about breaking something taking it out, or breaking the keyway if I didn’t get it put back in with enough torque. What actually ended up breaking was a stupid little screw that held on a pulley boss. I think it had me stuck for over a month before I realized I could just drill it out backwards. All because the book I was using listed the torque in foot/lb when it should have been in inch/lb. I’d be okay never seeing that pulley boss again.

  11. Nexox Enigma Avatar
    Nexox Enigma

    Reinstalling the intake manifold on my V70R took forever because I refused to strip all of the accessories off the engine just to reach one screw, but after several bloody knuckles I finally got it and moved onto the comparatively easy task of bolting the throttle body to the manifold, and of course it goes on the bottom, where there’s barely room to get my hands, and nowhere near enough to fit any of my torque wrenches.
    Surprise! I snapped off one of the M6 screws. So I pulled the TB off, and working blindly, sort of drilled out the broken screw and got a tap in there… and promptly snapped that off too.
    So I put it all back together with three out of four screws and went for a short test drive.
    I had plenty of time to order a replacement intake manifold off eBay since the tow truck took almost two hours to get to the parking lot I coasted to after splitting the throttle body gasket the first time I ventured into boost, maybe 3/4 of a mile from my house.

  12. JayP Avatar

    When I’m working on the car/truck, I expect to f-it up royally.
    Changing out the fuel filter on the Ranger, I broke the clip on the fuel line side.
    The Dorman repair kit requires removing the plastic fuel line and using a heat gun to melt the plastic.
    I didn’t want to remove the bed to get to the fuel line so I tried it on the truck. Bad idea. Melted more of the fuel line and melted (burned) my hand. I eventually got the line on it but after a few days driving I saw it was leaking fuel again.
    Parked it. One nice Friday I tore into 12 pack of Miller and dove into removing the bed at least enough to get to the fuel lines. Finally off the truck I used epoxy and more Dorman fuel lines to fix.
    All that for a $12 filter.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      “requires removing the plastic fuel line and using a heat gun to melt the plastic.”
      That sounds quite safe. Perfect job for d.i.y. !

  13. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    Reinstalling a 4.7 V8 into a 1999 Durango, I failed to properly align the new clutch disk. I couldn’t get the engine and trans to mate, so like a dumbass, I installed the bellhousing bolts and started cinching them down gradually. Before long I heard an ominous “pop” which indicated I had successfully broken the center of the clutch disk. Oh, did I mention it was Thanksgiving Day, and not a single parts store was open, and I needed the truck yesterday?

    1. LeaksOil Avatar

      A stick shift Durango!? Never heard of that before.

      1. Harry Callahan Avatar
        Harry Callahan

        I actually intended to write “Dakota”. It was 4.7, 5sp, 4wd….a very rare drivetrain.

        1. LeaksOil Avatar

          Aha. I was wondering if you had undertaken some crazy swap or meant to say Dakota, haha.

  14. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    For the record, I went back to the Benz yesterday and ripped off some of the rotting window channel guard (I already have new stuff that’s been ordered, shipped, arrived, and waiting install.) With that pulled out I was able to get the window up and into place. I bolted the regulator back in, and powered the car on to make sure it was all shut nice.
    I think I bent a piece of trim though… fucking thin metal, chrome plated trim.
    Because of course I did.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      If you’re really lucky it will turn out to be unstraightenable, unpolishable, soft and brittle aluminium or hard and brittle stainless steel.

  15. Lokki Avatar

    Decided not to pay a mechanic to change the water pump on my old aluminum engine Alfa Spider. Why spend the money for something as simple as a water pump?
    I don’t have a big enough socket to remove the bottom belt pulley, but fortunately, I read on the internet that the pump can be removed with the pulley in place by removing all the steel studs that hold the pump to the block. After pulling the studs, thecpump can be slid out sideways. There are eight studs holding the pump. Six I get off by double-nutting the studs and extracting them from the front block cover. One I strip with double nutting, but manage to extract using vice-grips. The last one…. well, later it turns out that the other seven studs are about an inch long each, but this last one is about three inches long and (invisibly) goes -through- the front cover, and into the block itself. The net makes no mention of this long stud because it was such a bad idea they changed it on later engines. After 40 years, the location, heat, and disparate metals have frozen this one in solid. When double nutting strips the threads, I am officially screwed. The stud must come out now, even if I do go and buy a socket and remove the bottom pulley. So: vice grips to the rescue (Hey! It worked once!) I manage to break off the stud, leaving only roughly 1/4 inch sticking out of the block. Since the car can’t be driven, I have it expensively towed to the mechanic who charges only slightly more than for a standard water pump replacement for extracting the busted stud and replacing all the others.

  16. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    some many years ago up near the arctic circle, i was r&r-ing an inboard engine on a Lockheed warning star. prior to ground runup, i found a fuel leak in the wing leading edge fuel cross-feed plumbing. opened up the access panels &found the leaking 6″ B nut(big pipe R-3350’s have a thirst) just out of reach. typical. i have just the right tool, a 6″ open end crowfoot 3/4″ drive. have to check the flair under the nut for cracks. if no crack then re-torque the 6″ B nut. four foot breaker bar with a two foot long 3/4″ extension and it is not coming loose. cold soaked. well if a little torque isn’t getting it off, a bit more torque will. snap. broken 6″ crowfoot. takes a lot of force to break a 6″ crowfoot… breaker bar comes flying out the access panel. glorious parabolic flight arcing overhead thirty feet into the line chiefs truck radiator. instant bad juju.
    nut was now finger tight. no cracks. borrowed another crowfoot from the Navy guys next door and torqued the nut to spec. them Navy guys get nice tools….
    found out that i really don’t like repairing aluminum radiator cores. pulled it out and tig welded the damage. the line chief gave me “the look” for a few weeks after. said he was amazed i wasn’t using a cheater bar.

  17. Rudy™ Avatar

    Replaced a timing belt successfully on the ’97 CR-V. I used my trouble light to help me see during my night hours working on it…and melted the top cover to the brake fluid reservoir on the master cylinder.
    Helping my buddy install a new radio in his then-new Chevy Citation, we couldn’t remember which battery terminal to disconnect first. (And we were both third year electronics students. Heh.) So it made sense (?) to disconnect the positive first. No problem, until on the second swing of the ratchet, he hit the inside lip of the fender and burned a hole in it amidst a shower of sparks.
    Playing with an AC inverter in our old ’73 Catalina, I tried clipping the ground to, of all things, the parking brake release cable. Burned through it the second it was connected. There was also something else I had done under the dash on a later task that started a small one inch circle of the carpeting on fire.
    Several years ago, a battery died on me completely one summer morning. Worked fine 30 minutes prior. Wouldn’t even take a charge. So I tried to jump start it, and then noticed *everything* was dead when I went to turn the starter…and realized I had swapped the red and black jumper cables. Thankfully no damage–the main fuse was the only victim.
    Can’t remember why, but I learned the hard way on my POS Merkur that you are supposed to depressurize the fuel system first before disconnecting a fuel line. Like I really needed that smell of 87 octane up my nose the entire day.
    I have busted, or nearly busted, rusted weld nuts just due to impatience.
    Worst/most costly? An oil leak softened the timing belt in the ’88 Accord, and ended up stripping out some of the teeth. Towed it home. Bought a used cylinder head, since bent valves were certainly going to be an issue. And ended up having zero time to work on it, not to mention coming across a Phillips head screw that wouldn’t budge. Several years later, ended up selling it as-is when we had to move. Turns out, I’d read several years after selling it that this was *not* an interference engine. I could simply have lined up the pulleys, slapped the belt on and had it running. And I also learned that there is an impact driver that would have loosened that Phillips screw.
    Live and (don’t) learn, I guess!